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Sandoval County 4-H members enjoy camp at Valles Caldera National Preserve

BERNALILLO, N.M. - When school gets back in session and the teachers ask them what they did over the summer, a group of Sandoval County 4-H members will answer, "Went camping in the Valles Caldera National Preserve and heard the sounds of nature."


Two girls working on a box that has a yellow dish in middle.
Kate Olson, left, and Eva Wilson bake nachos in the solar oven they made during Sandoval County 4-H Camp activities. They were among 56 youth from Cuba, Regina, La Jara, Torreon, Jemez Springs, Placitas, Rio Rancho, Corrales and Bernalillo who participated in the annual three-day camp at the Valles Caldera National Preserve. (NMSU photo by Jane Moorman)

For the second year, the Sandoval County 4-H Camp was held on the west side of Redondo Peak in the 89,000-acre preserve. The 56 youth, ages 5 to 17 from Cuba, Regina, La Jara, Torreon, Jemez Springs, Placitas, Rio Rancho, Corrales and Bernalillo, and 20 adults camped near the Union Oil Building, which had headquartered exploration for geo-thermal energy in the 1970s.

Prior to holding the three-day camp at the Valles Caldera National Preserve, the annual event was held at the county fairgrounds in Cuba.

"The kids really enjoy themselves here," said Steve Lucero, Sandoval County Cooperative Extension Service agricultural and 4-H agent. "A lot of these kids come from the urban setting so this is a whole new experience for them, including sleeping in tents in the wilderness. We tie nature into the camp activities, so they will develop an understanding about environment and how we impact it."

This year's activities included learning about fly fishing, building a solar oven from a pizza box, and using a compass and learning other survival skills. They also participated in archery while shooting at 3D targets.

"The activities are very hands-on," said Nicole Lujan, Sandoval County Extension home economist and 4-H agent. "Besides gaining knowledge and developing skills from the activities, they learned leadership, citizenship and life skills. They also made new friends."

"I like camp because we get to know a whole bunch of new people," said Hazel Dickey, president of the Sandoval County 4-H Council, "and we do a whole bunch of new things. It's a great learning experience, and really fun."

Camp also includes doing community service projects.

"This year we built bat houses for the Village of San Ysidro," Lujan said. "They've had a infestation of mosquitoes this year so we decided to provide habitats for their natural predator. The project is a way to thank the village for letting us do events in their offices."

During the second project, the youth make Seven Days of Love pill boxes for patients at Carrie Tingley Children's Hospital.

"We put seven inspirational quotes into the seven-day pill box with some candy," Lujan said. "Each day the child will be able to open an inspirational quote for that day, and know other kids were thinking about them."

The Extension agents say the camp's success is because of the donations made by people in the county, from the parents who cook the meals and chaperone, to Molina Health Care that donated funds for healthy snacks and Pizza Hut donating boxes for the solar ovens.

"This is a great partnership between the Valles Caldera National Preserve staff and our volunteers," Lucero said. "Several preserve employees help with our activities and really enjoy working with the kids."

John Swigart, GIS specialist for the Valles Caldera National Preserve, taught the youth outdoor orientation and survival skills. Mike Krabbe, from Charlie's Sporting Goods in Albuquerque, and his wife, Lisa, taught about the types of bugs used in fly fishing and how to cast. 4-H leaders Robert and Colleen Felsch and David Zamora taught archery.